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To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Paperback – February 8, 2011


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To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett + Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride + The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061368296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061368295
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Western historian Gardner (Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade) delivers a dual biography documenting Sheriff Pat Garrett's hunt for the iconic outlaw William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. As Gardner sees it, the battle between the wily Kid and the determined Garrett is perhaps the greatest of our Old West legends. Digging beneath the myths and melodrama, he begins in Las Vegas during Christmas week, 1880, when the capture and confinement of Billy the Kid made national headlines. Gardner then details the Kid's daring daylight courthouse escape on April 28, 1881, in a hail of gunfire, leaving bloodied bodies behind. I am not going to leave the country, said the Kid, and I am not going to reform, neither am I going to be taken alive again. The chase began, with Garrett finally gunning down the Kid on July 14, 1881. Gardner concludes with a survey of the Kid's robust mythic afterlife in books and films. Gardner's extensive research and authoritative approach ground this compelling historical recreation. B&w photos. (Feb. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The saga of Billy the Kid and his nemesis, Pat Garrett, has been the subject of numerous fanciful books and several very bad movies. So it is both useful and interesting to read this well-researched and, one hopes, relatively accurate account of the Lincoln County War and the two most famous participants in it. The center of the account is Garrett’s pursuit and execution of the Kid after he escaped from the Lincoln County courthouse jail. Fortunately, Gardner precedes that account with an engrossing examination of the lives of both men and the political and economic milieu of nineteenth-century New Mexico. He effectively uses primary sources, although those sources are often contradictory and reflect the views of competing Lincoln County factions. The portrait of the Kid, surprisingly, conforms to his popular image as a ruthless killer who could also be charming. Garrett is seen as ambitious, laconic, and coldly efficient. This is a fine effort to de-mystify a legendary episode in the history of the American West. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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More About the Author

Mark Lee Gardner has written a broad range of books and articles on the American West, including a number of interpretive guides for the National Park Service on subjects ranging from George Custer to Geronimo. As a historian and consultant, he has worked with museums, historic sites, and humanities councils throughout the West. He has been a visiting professor in the Southwest Studies department at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado.

Customer Reviews

The book reads like a good novel.
Harry Skolnik
There have been many well written and well respected books and pieces written on Pat Garrett, Billy The Kid, and the Lincoln County War.
Michael S.
A very well written, greatly entertaining, and thoroughly researched account of the tale of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.
Matt Brubaker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Burgmicester VINE VOICE on January 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mark Lee Gardner has so thoroughly researched and written this history of William Bonney, Billy the Kid, and his killer, Pat Garrett that many of the myths can now be put to rest. The Legend of Billy the Kid has been romanticized by many movies, books and songs, but now the actual historical facts are on display.

The book is laid out in chronological fashion and the story of Billy the Kid is told side by side with the one man that will be forever tied to him - Pat Garrett, the Sheriff that brought Billy down. The bibliography is well worth the time to peruse it. Much of the data and primary reference material is quoted and commented upon by Gardner, making this section of the book very valuable to anyone that is truly interested in the full historical story.

The writing is very good and easy to follow. Of the 250+ pages, the first 200 are dedicated to the story of Garrett and Billy and their intertwined lives. After Billy is killed by Garrett, the book concentrates on the rest of the life of Pat Garrett. Garrett's life after Billy is not a pretty one and is quite sad to read. Gardner works his material and maybe overwrites this portion a little. As a writer of pure history, Gardner attempts to leave no stone unturned and this is one of the two negatives that I have with the book - just too much detail without the interest of Billy the Kid's involvement. With the title as it is written, this reader expected Billy to be a part of the book until the end.

The second negative is that this book does not give to the reader any of the surrounding events that are ongoing during the time frame of this story. I like to obtain more historical information in the era of the biography to complement the immediate story of the biography's main character(s).
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on January 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Billy the Kid is one of America's most famous killers, but the only killing he is really known for is his own. Mark Lee Gardner presents a sober-sided retelling of the life and death of the Kid and of the man who brought him down, Pat Garrett.

"To Hell On A Fast Horse" scores points for sticking to the facts, but loses them for...sticking to the facts. I come away from reading this 2010 history satisfied I know a lot more about Billy and Pat, but as to what made them so important to be worth reading about 130 years later, I can't honestly say. What was it about them that resonates so, now, then, and in all the decades between?

It sure wasn't the vast trove of reliable historical testimony they left behind. Gardner makes clear that available records are scant at best, and often unreliable. Instead of compensating by printing the legend, a la John Ford, he goes to census records and newspaper accounts, synthesizing what is out there with a gimlet eye but not much in the way of a discernable point of view.

Gardner does favor Garrett to Billy, perhaps because there's more data on the lawman, but mostly because he views Billy as a charming thug. "Billy's real and deadly talent was fooling people," he writes. "Billy joked and smiled, but his quick mind was always sizing up the situation, looking for a sign of weakness, a slight mental error, something that would give him an edge."

Garrett stood for something more than using people. Gardner portrays him in the opening chapter, which flash-forwards to Billy in Pat's custody, as a stolid character standing up to a mob to see to it Billy and his other prisoners receive honest justice, not the frontier variety. Later on, after Billy's death, he pursues an investigation with possibly dangerous political repercussions.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on January 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I heard plenty of Marty Robbins and Western music as a kid since it was the only music my dad really liked, and I remember listening to the sad story of "Billy the Kid," crouched next to the big old stereo cabinet while the records played. For some reason outlaws such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James (along with The Red Baron) loomed large in my childhood mind - I'm still not quite sure why.

Mark Lee Gardiner tells the story of Billy the Kid (a.k.a. Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, and William Bonney) very well. He provides background on where he came from and how he became a notorious outlaw, at least as far as is reliably known, which is sketchy at best (the Marty Robbins song says Billy "at the age of 12 years he did kill his first man," but the book says he was 17). He also tells of Pat Garrett, the all-but-forgotten Sheriff, who tracked Billy down and arrested him, and later killed him after a brazen and bloody escape (the song also says the two were friends, but the book says no). In doing so Gardiner brings the Old West of New Mexico alive in a very readable way - the chapter where Garrett kills Billy was particularly exciting. I noticed another review complain that Billy is romanticized too much, but I saw it differently; that Gardiner was trying to convey how Billy was viewed by the people, some of which saw him as a hero instead of an outlaw.
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